Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are among the most common problems I see in my practice. Since they are usually easy to treat, UTIs are sometimes a welcomed break from the more complicated, time-consuming issues I encounter. Nonetheless, complications from UTIs (such as kidney infections and sepsis) result in more than 1 million hospital admissions annually in the U.S. Cranberry juice blocks bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract. So for decades cranberry products have been used to prevent UTIs.
An article in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analyzed 13 studies testing whether cranberry products really do decrease the incidence of UTIs. The study concluded that “overall, cranberry products were not associated with lower rates of symptomatic UTIs.” The study’s authors acknowledge that they cannot definitively conclude that cranberry products don’t prevent UTIs, only that there is not robust scientific evidence to support their use for this purpose. The article hypothesizes that perhaps not enough of the active ingredient (proanthocyanidin) in cranberries was consumed to be able to prevent UTIs. It states that “in theory, a patient would need to consume 224 to 280 grams of cranberry juice twice a day indefinitely to achieve any potential benefit” in preventing UTIs.
If somebody with recurrent UTIs is interested in trying cranberry juice to address the problem, I see no harmful effect from doing so except for the increased sugar and calorie intake.
So what does work to prevent UTIs? A couple of common sense solutions are staying hydrated and urinating immediately after sex. For women suffering from frequent UTIs, using a topical estrogen cream and/or taking a regular low dose antibiotic for prevention have both been shown to be effective.